MELBOURNE (Reuters) – When Grigor Dimitrov ended Andy Murray’s reign as Wimbledon champion with a no-nonsense quarter-final defeat at the All England Club in 2014, it supposedly heralded the arrival of the “generation next” in men’s tennis.
The Bulgarian, who showed his all-court versatility in 2014 by winning titles on three different surfaces and climbing to eighth in the world, found the lofty expectations difficult to deal with just a year later.
Instead of breaking the dominance of the games “Big Five” of Novak Djokovic, Murray, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Stan Wawrinka, the 24-year-old’s game hit the buffers and he failed to reach a single final in 2015.
Needing to inject fresh impetus into his racquet skills, he dumped Australian task master Roger Rasheed as his coach and replaced him with Franco Davin — the former mentor of 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro.
But Dimitrov, now ranked 28th in the world, has discovered that there is no quick fix to his problems.
The Bulgarian, who has been nicknamed “Baby Fed” for possessing a game akin to Federer, was shown that his style of play was still rough around the edges as he was beaten 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-4 by the Swiss master on Friday.
“I’m not going to lie. Losses like that always hurt … but I just haven’t played that kind of matches on that level for a while,” Dimitrov said after falling in the third round.
“Obviously 2014 was an amazing year for me. Then 2015 was just a rough season. I had problems with the racquets … changing the team. It takes a little bit out of you.
“Next thing you find yourself in a very tough spot. I think that’s what happened with me. But I can only learn from it.”
Dimitrov is confident that under Davin’s guidance, he will soon be able to turn his off-target shots into silky winners.
“Slowly, slowly, the pieces are coming together,” added Dimitrov, who reached his first final in over a year in Sydney last week before losing to Viktor Troicki.
“When you lose matches against the top guys, there’s a lot you can see that you can still work on. It’s a good … to see where we at right now, what we need to work on.”
(Writing by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Alison Williams)